Thursday, January 4

What Makes My Air Compressor So Noisy?

It is no surprise that air compressors can be very noisy machines.  These units were designed to work hard to complete vital processes in your facility’s operations. Because these machines carry such heavy workloads and important jobs, they can create uncomfortably loud noises or lots of vibrations that are noticeable to your employees. Let’s look at why this happens and solutions to an overly loud air compressor.

What Causes Compressors to Make Noise?


As with anything, parts rubbing or bumping together can cause noise.  The metal inside your compressor that may be hitting or sliding against other metal creates a loud sound. Friction also causes the vibrations coming from your compressor. Proper lubrication of your machine can reduce unnecessary friction.

Internal Motor

The internal motor of your machine generates its own noise when it is working.  This can become a significant amount of your compressor’s noise.  This is a similar concept to a lawn mower’s motor causing the tractor to be loud. This applies to both oil free and oil lubricated machines.

Number of Moving Parts

In general, the more moving parts inside of an air compressor, the louder it can be.  This is due to increased places for friction to occur and just the pure fact that there are more pieces working at one time and creating noise. Mechanical parts like pistons and crankshafts cause lots of mechanical noise. More moving parts can also mean more vibration of your compressor.

Surrounding Environment

The surrounding areas and positioning of your air compressor can contribute to how loud your machine is. For example, concrete floors and very open areas can amplify the noise your machine is generating. The setup of the machine and the amount or type of pipe connected to the machine can also have an impact on the vibrations and noise that gets generated or transferred throughout the facility.

Of course, the closer you get to the machine, the louder it will be.  Because of this, many people choose to keep their compressor system in a separate compressor room where it is isolated from other operations and employees so as not to disturb workers or cause safety hazards if the machine reaches too large a decibel level or generates heavy vibrations.

Power Source

Electric compressors are typically quieter compressors than gas powered units. Gas powered compressors generate more combustion and tend to have the most internal moving parts, both factors contributing to more noise.

Cooling Fans

Many compressors have cooling fans attached to the system to help get rid of excess heat that gets generated during operation.  These fans can add to the overall noise, and thus get roped in and blamed when a compressor gets called “noisy.”

Commonly Loud Compressor Types

  • Reciprocating compressors, also known as piston compressors, can be some of the noisier compressor types. Single-piston models are known to generate more noise than dual-piston models.
  • Rotary vane compressors are generally unenclosed units that generate a higher pitched, noisier operation due to the sliding vane inside the machine.
  • Old rotary screw units may also cause high-pitched noises that create a noisier operation. In general, rotary screw units boast a quieter operation. The older rotary screw units, however, may come unenclosed or with less efficient internal technologies that have since been improved over the years.

Common Issues with Loud Compressors

Most air compressors, while they may be loud, are not so loud that they become physically dangerous to you or your work force. However, having a machine that is very loud, in any industry or environment, can have impacts on those around them. The noise generated from a loud compressor that is located close to a workplace’s employees can be very annoying.  It may serve as a constant distraction, limit communication abilities, harm productivity or quality of work, and cause overall dysfunction of your team.  This of course can be avoided with proper location of the compressor and proper safety equipment, such as earplugs.

Quieting Solutions

Sound Dampening Enclosures

Many newer compressor types are built with enclosures made from materials like thicker gauge steel or aluminum that help dull the noise. Some compressors may also come manufactured with sound-dampening enclosures around noisier internal parts such as motors, pumps, or fans.

Adding Lubrication

In oil lubricated machines, when the oil level gets too low, friction increases and thus the noise increases. A simple solution may be to top off the oil reservoir so that it reaches an ample oil level to properly lubricate the moving parts.

Relocating the Compressor

Moving the compressor further away from where employees are working or enclosing it in its own room completely, contributes to a quieter workplace and factory area. The more open and clear a space is, the more sound may travel and amplify off the walls and floor.

Upgrading to A Newer & Quieter Unit

Each unique application will require a different kind of compressor that may sound different with varying demands and jobs. However, there are a few compressors that are always considered quieter machines. Both rotary screw and scroll compressors offer efficient compressed air solutions that are much quieter compared to other units.  Any newer air compressor will most likely be built with better sound dampening technologies than a much older unit, but rotary screw and scroll compressors are the units that will always be recommended when sound is a major concern.  In rotary screw air compressors, the helical screws that turn inside the machine to operate the compressor, never touch each other so there is very little friction happening to cause loud noises. Scroll compressors also utilize two spiral shaped metal pieces, also known as scrolls, that never touch, thus creating less friction. However, scroll compressors have a limited CFM capacity compared to rotary screw units.



Zorn is the Midwest leader of custom, engineered compressed air and vacuum solutions. We provide the best customer experience by understanding your applications and needs and offering an unparalleled commitment to customer satisfaction. 

Our comprehensive product and service solutions keep you running 24/7.

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Our compressed air experts look forward to meeting you to discuss your equipment and support needs. Please contact us directly at (262) 695-7000 with any questions or to schedule service for your system moving forward.

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